Job Hunting – A Survival Guide

Mad to think it’s been over a month since I wrote something on my blog. Actually that’s a teeny lie. It’s closer to two, I believe. Time flies when you’re ferociously job hunting and trying to figure out your life. However, last month, I actually had an epiphany. I realised that no matter how amazing my CV looked or fabulous I am in real life, the job hunt was getting the better of my sanity. In effect, I have been searching for that elusive role since January 2016 but with more gusto since August. Breakups and moving back in with your folks will do that to you. Thank god for them, though.

I am not exactly sure how I want to write this piece. I don’t want it to sound like I’m bitter or woe is me. I couldn’t find a job. Life is hard. But, I suppose I want to highlight my experience, the difficulties I faced despite having over ten years experience, a relevant Degree and a Masters. And really, I am grateful to be on this journey. I have learned that I can take the power back. I can have control. I don’t necessarily know where this will all lead but there is light … to coin a phrase.

So, some lessons I have learned.

1. Get professional help for your CV.

I had very kind family and friends willing to look over my CV but it wasn’t until I sought out professional advice that my luck started to turn. A career coach helped me focus my experience. He showed me how to break down those tedious job descriptions (often just full of jargon) and how to relate my experience. He redefined the personal statement and taught me how to focus my experience in key bullet points so that it related to each job application. He also introduced me to an excellent cover letter template. Simple and easily modified for each job.

I spent a bit of time with Ronan Kennedy but obviously there are lots more out there.

2. Never trust a Recruiter

This is a sad but true fact. Maybe I was completely naive to have ever thought they might have some scruples. I remember being surprised when my sister asked was a Recruiter I was in contact with still answering my calls or had she done a disappearing act yet. This is such a lovely woman, so nice and friendly, I had thought to myself. She would never do that. Oh how wrong I was. The bizarre thing is it is so completely unprofessional of them. Whether their client isn’t interested in meeting you or you haven’t gotten past the first round of interviews, it doesn’t take much to send an email and let you know. I’m still shocked I haven’t heard back from Recruiters that set up interviews for me.

3. This is a tough world

People don’t give a shit if you’re the nicest gal or guy in town. If it doesn’t mean anything to them they won’t bother replying to you. It surprised me how many people I contacted directly, following several professional people’s advice, when applying for a job and heard nothing in response. Nada. Zilch. Not a freaking iota of a thanks for this, we’ll get back to you. That said, when someone did connect with me (rarely) and/or send a rejection, (I got a few out of the hundreds of jobs I applied for) I was delighted. And I honestly was touched they had taken the time. Even if it was automated. Pretty sad when you think about it. I was delighted to receive a rejection. This is how bad things had become.

4. Don’t assume anything

My biggest assumption was that once I had been professional enough to attend an interview, do my research, dress smartly, arrive on time and try my best, someone would let me know whether I had made it to the next stage or not. Oh how naive. That would take all of five seconds to write an email. Or make a call. This was the hardest part to digest. How such professionalism can produce such disrespect. And really it was a serious knock to the confidence. That when you finally got an interview they couldn’t even be bothered to let you know how you got on. Obviously silence speaks volumes. What’s worse, in many cases I followed up with the Recruiter but heard nothing in response. It beggars belief.

5. Be ruthless and believe in yourself.

Look out for number one. Don’t worry about pestering the Recruiter, they won’t get back to you if they don’t want to anyway. Do your research, know your shit and hit those jobs applications, again and again and again. The right job will find its way to you, if its meant to be. But be open to new opportunities that you might not have considered before.

Some say it is a numbers game. Maybe my number just ran out. That’s not a bad thing. In fact it’s great. The whole job hunt and the time spent with Ronan, made me realise what it is I really want to do. It helped narrow down my options, which obviously isn’t always a good thing. But I realised that my way forward wasn’t through getting a job, but carving my own path. Setting up my own business. Making my own opportunities.

I took back the control. I didn’t need hundreds of rejections or one simple acceptance to validate me. I am my own person. I have lots of valuable experience and I know how to use it. And what’s more my ephipany gave me the chance to take a break, get some space and spend some time with family in South East Asia. Win-Win.

It’s scary to think of what’s in store, how will I earn a living or move forward, but it’s rewarding to know that I’m in charge of my destiny. I hold the power and can make my own decisions.

Best of luck on your journey! And remember you’re worth more than what’s on that piece of paper.

Consenting Adults…

Over the past few years, there has been a notable rise in concern regarding the question of consent in cases of sexual assault. It’s not simply that someone was raped or assaulted without their consent. It’s that the victim, according to their alleged attacker, was compliant. This, I suppose, is nothing new. Such are the murky waters of sexual assault. Is it not natural that the accused will always try and claim compliance? But when there’s clear inability to comply, you have to wonder, how they can claim as such. Cases like Brock Turner still beggar belief.

So what is consent?

Noun – permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.

Verb – give permission for something to happen.

And why is it so hard to establish?

Well it’s not. This fabulous little video about tea from Thames Valley Police clearly shows how easy consent is to ascertain. So why do our young men and women struggle so much with it? I don’t have the answer to that. I have lots of thoughts, many my own personal ones. But what I do know is consent is not just a problem of youth. Something I was reminded of recently.

A friend of mine, a woman in her sixties, recently joined a new gym. One day, while in the steam room, she was leaning over, enjoying the heat, rolling out her tight shoulders. There was only one other person in the room with her, a man sitting on the other side. He said something but she didn’t hear him. He repeated himself. Still, she didn’t hear him but not wanting to be rude, she smiled, nodded. Threw out a vague yeah, yeah, as you do. All very innocuous, not thinking much of it. Suddenly he got up, sat beside her and asked her to turn around. Now at this point, most people hearing this story would say why didn’t you move? Instead, a little flustered, she turned around and he started to massage her shoulders. Immediately, she asked herself what had he said to me? How have I brought this stranger in to my space? She says she didn’t get a good look at him but he was definitely younger than her. A lot younger. Perhaps late thirties, early forties.

Sitting there she started panicking. Torn between this nice massage and this stranger touching her, she didn’t know what to do. How would she get him to stop? Again as an outsider, it is easy for us to say, just tell him. Suddenly she felt a thigh, his thigh, pushing against her leg. The thoughts now going through her head were “There is no way this young guy is hitting on me, an old foggy.” She’s not an old foggy, by any standards, but rather than trusting her instincts she questioned her part in this scene. Still she didn’t say anything. She didn’t ask him to stop. By now he was standing on the bench, leaning above her, body appendages pressing against the back of her head, just to get a better grip on her shoulder, he told her. If it wasn’t so creepy it would be funny. In fact we did laugh, but beneath it we all felt the shock, disgust and fear of what we, as women, would do in this situation. My stomach turned when she told me what happened next.

Now sitting back down behind her, he asked her to raise her elbow. And rather than pressing deeper into her shoulder muscles as a physio might, he started kissing her armpit. My friend jumped, her suspicions finally confirmed. She started apologising, as women often do. Completely flustered and in shock. He, cool as a cucumber, simply said “No worries. Sit down. Let me finish the massage.” She hesitated, but ultimately turned back around again. He continued with his massage, until finally something snapped, she moved away and told him to stop.

My friend didn’t report this incident. Maybe she should have. But there was a hesitation as she wondered had she said something to encourage his actions? And the likelihood that he would say “I was just giving her a massage. I misread the signs.” In other words, don’t be so crazy, lady. But you have to stop and ask yourself what’s really going on here. Does this man use the steam room to prey on women? My friend convinced herself that he wasn’t hitting on her because of her age. An abusive situation is not simply older versus younger. It’s about power. What can I take here? Perhaps he saw something in her? Simply a woman on her own. Perhaps he sits in that steam room looking for opportunities where women are alone and unsure? Or perhaps he just has a fetish for armpits and spotted hers when she was doing her shoulder rolls?

His motives aside, which we could analyse all day long, what’s also interesting here is my friends reaction to the event itself. She knew she never consented to the massage. Yet, when he first touched her, rather than asking him to stop or simply what was he doing, she questioned herself. Had she said something that led him to believe she wanted him to massage her. Never did she ask herself how he’d manipulated the situation to suddenly be in her space, touching her body, without her consent. That’s power.

When his leg pushed against hers, her reaction was there’s no way this young man is hitting on me in my togs and plastic cap. I’m imagining this. I AM IMAGINING THIS. Again that’s power. She’s a good looking woman but sexual assault is not about the most attractive woman at the party being assaulted. It’s about opportunity. It’s about vulnerability. It’s about control. And again it’s about power.

When he kissed her armpit and she pulled away, he didn’t take a step back, apologise or acknowledge that he was making her uncomfortable, let alone abusing a situation. Instead he told her  to sit down and he would continue his massage. It’s easy for me, or anyone reading this, to say why didn’t you walk away then? Why didn’t you get angry with him? But people like this are cunning. They’re sly and vindictive. They don’t assault you outright. They’re circuitous with their actions. They’re charming. They build your trust. He told her about his wife and kids while giving her a massage. So when they strike you’re questioning whether you imagined it. Whether it was something YOU did to lead them on. That you gave them the consent to touch you. Who knows if she’d continued with the massage would he have tried again? Probably. Who knows whether he’s already tried this on other woman at that gym. We hope not. We want to think that this was an isolated incident but, deep down, we all know they aren’t.

It has taken several weeks for my friend to feel comfortable again in the gym. To no longer being nervous when alone in the steam room in case he walked in. Or on high alert whenever a man walked past in the pool area. Because not only do situations like this ignore our consent, but they add to everything else a woman needs to worry about. Walking home alone at night. Drinking too much on a night out. Wearing “provocative” clothing. Leading someone on. Now watching our actions in public spaces, lest someone might misconstrue our intentions.

Whatever next?

But we do have power. We can action change. We can encourage each other to trust our instincts. Is it not better to be embarrassed than sorry? We can work together to empower women and claw back our personal space. And continue to educate – consent is not just for kids.

Creeps like that will still exist. Crawling out from the woodwork when you least expect it. But just try and hold on to your voice and remember that consent is yours to give.

Not to be taken.

Photo curtesy of Unsplash.com Isaac Benhesed

When Politicians bully…

 

Ever heard of the Streisand Effect? In a nutshell, it is when an attempt to suppress, hide or censor a piece of information inadvertently results in that information becoming widely known. It was coined in 2005, two years after Barbara Streisand sued a photographer for including photos of her Malibu home in an online catalogue about the Californian coastline.

Of course, it backfired and drew more attention to her fabulous home.

Reporter (and good friend) Jacqui Helbert pointed out this phenomenon to me after she was recently fired from her position at the University of Tennessee, WUTC radio station. In short, Helbert was fired for not identifying herself as a reporter, while she recorded an interview between members of the newly formed Gay-Straight Alliance (from Cleveland High School) with State Senator Mike Bell and later Rep. Kevin Brooks. The young teenagers were in the Capitol to discuss the controversial Bathroom Bill.

However, according to UTC spokesperson, George Heddleston, to not clearly identify yourself is against the code of ethics of this NPR affiliate station, WUTC.

Just clarify, Helbert didn’t sneak into the room where these meetings were being held and secretly set up microphones. She was wearing her cumbersome gear (earphones, 14 inch Shotgun mic and recording device) plainly in view on her body, a WUTC tote bag and her press badge around her neck. She evens says she had to move her gear aside to shake hands with Senator Bell. Now what she perhaps failed to do when shaking hands, was say “I’m Jacqui Helbert, reporter with WUTC and I will be recording this interview.” It feels slightly pedantic and reductive but unfortunately all media personnel need to be on their game, especially in this day and age when everything we do has the propensity to receive a backlash.

So let us just say she didn’t properly identify herself but again wasn’t sneaky about the fact that she was recording the conversations. I would say that’s a rookie mistake and warrants a slap on the wrist – a verbal warning. Perhaps a written one due to the high profile nature of the interview. But that’s it. You live and learn. And you move on.

Why then go all the way and fire her? Why create your Streisand Effect when you know a tenacious, dedicated reporter such as Helbert will not take this unfair dismissal lying down?

Peer pressure. Oh and money, although UTC is denying that the legislators threatened to cut their funding unless Helbert was fired.

If you haven’t heard the piece, it’s a worth a listen.

Not to give you spoilers but you’ll definitely want to hear the part where Senator Mike Bell dismisses the existence of Transgender people as “hogwash”.

“Is it how I feel on Monday? I feel different on Tuesday? Wednesday I might feel like a dog.”

There’s no denying that the media have quite a significant role to play in public reporting. In the days of ‘alternative facts’ and ‘fake news’ it is essential that we report with accuracy, objectivity and truthfulness. That we uphold higher standards of ourselves and our work. However, when that happens, who protects us? When the bully can come in to the school yard, lean on you until you give him your lunch money and use his fists to ensure you don’t tell anyone, how can honest media survive?

Or perhaps more significantly, how can small media outlets survive? When you’re relying on government funding for your existence, being impartial is simply an ‘alternative fact’. A baseless one, which reveals its truth when you step on some power that be’s toes. Though UTC claims this is about ethics and not bathroom bills, you have to wonder if the topic was a little less controversial would Helbert have been fired? Thankfully the Streisand Effect has carved a path for proper exposure to the issues legislators want hidden. And that’s when traction starts gaining behind stories like this. Small radio stations can’t be bullied simply because those in power don’t like to hear the stories they report.

Interestingly, NPR have released a statement vindicating Helbert and arguing that the WUTC station should have been allowed to make a decision on how to handle this situation. And not be pressured or threatened with funding cuts. Clearly, it’s important that stations support each other and their journalists. NPR’s statement demonstrates how the big brother can protect its sibling. Nevertheless, and not to take from their statement, but it is just words. We need more than just words if we’re going to protect those that seek to report on topics that many, many would rather see go away.

 

 

 

An Open Letter

On the 8th March 2017, Larissa Nolan wrote an impassioned piece for the Irish Times about why she felt the Repeal the 8th march would fail. For many reasons, detailed below, I felt the need to respond. I was disappointed that several publications I approached weren’t interested in publishing my piece. Perhaps it was too moderate? This is an extremely heated debate that is gaining momentum, for which I’m glad. But I feel it’s important that all voices are heard and that we try and understand as many viewpoints as possible.

So with that in mind, here is my open letter to Larissa Nolan and anyone else who feels marginalised by the pro-choice campaign.

Dear Ms Nolan,

Firstly, I applaud you and respect you for writing your piece in Wednesday’s Irish Times. I can empathise with feeling like you are being silenced into a corner. As women, we often have to work harder to have our voices heard. I think both sides are guilty of having people who feel by shouting loudly they will win. And then there are those in the middle, like yourself, who want a reasonable debate, who want to discuss the options and choices that are right for Irish women. I welcome that debate and although I feel like this contentious topic is continuously falling on the deaf ears of some of our male powers that be, I do think it is important that us women (and the many men who are keen to be involved) continue to talk.

However, reading your article saddened and frustrated me. There were many points I understood, several I even agreed with. But overall it just angered me and felt narrow and closed minded of you. The very things you are accusing the pro-choice campaign of being.

So I would like to take a moment and go through a few of your points.

Firstly, I am pro-life. I am also pro – choice. I don’t know if I am pro-abortion because, and I say this with all the honest gratitude in the world, I am very lucky to have never been in a situation where I have needed an abortion. It irks me that the opposition to this debate takes the line that they are pro – life. That they care for all living, breathing things and we, horrid, abortion people, would kill a foetus as quick as that, if we had our way. I am pro – life. I love life. I hope some day to have a life growing inside me. But if I was in a situation where I had been raped or the foetus had a fatal foetal abnormality or I wasn’t financially, or in anyway ready, for a child, I deserve to have the choice. The hardest choice I may ever make, but my choice all the same.

I don’t agree with you belittling this campaign and reducing it to a “fashion” statement. For me and my peers it is not about being cool, or the latest trends and pictures on Instagram or Snapchat. It’s actually about life and death (of the mother as well). See the reality is before 2012, this country was in a coma. Abortion was the herpes nobody wanted to catch. Those in power threw it about like a scabies covered kitten, hoping, but not really caring, if someone claimed it. And then, as you know, Savita Halappanavar died tragically. And we woke up. And we said no more. See the thing is because Ireland chose to ignore this issue for so long a new way of communicating has emerged. When I was out marching on Wednesday I was overwhelmed and emotional at the number of young women and men out on our streets. Because they are the ones that this affects most. They are the future. And they communicate through social media. Nobody should be silenced for a difference of opinion, but I feel your distaste of the colourful and vocal platforms that are being used portrays your real truth. You understand, as well as I do, that this campaign is gathering momentum. Our voices are starting to be heard and although you may not like it, social media has been and will be central to any changes being made.

You talk about “when you force an idea down people’s throat, they rebel”. Oh how right you are. Isn’t that what’s happening on our streets these days? Don’t you see that this archaic and inane law has been forced down Irish women’s throats for too long? The Ireland of 2017 is a very different place to that of 1983. I understand there are people who don’t agree with abortion but we can’t keep allowing our citizens to travel to another country simply because we don’t want to face this truth. I whole heartedly agree that abortion is not a clear cut issue. It is and probably will continue to be one of the most contentious topics of our time. And I have been where you have been. In the middle. We want full access for fatal foetal abnormalities and cases of rape and incest but we’re not sure if abortion should be available for the twenty year old woman who had a one night stand and can’t afford to have a baby. Or dare I say, doesn’t want a baby right now. Oh Larissa, there are so many things wrong with that. So many. Firstly, who am I or you or anyone to say what another woman should do with her body? Who are we to judge that choice? And what about the man in the situation who more times than not can just walk away from an unexpected pregnancy with little or no responsibility?

Now, I tread carefully here. As with both sides of this argument I can’t tar everyone with the same brush. Many a young man would stand up and be accountable I am sure.

“Give girls and women the facts, be non-judgemental in your support, and allow them to figure out for themselves what is the lesser of two evils. Be pragmatic about the realities of raising a child alone without painting it as an oppression instead of what it can be, a reward”.

That is exactly what we’re asking for. Give women the facts and the choice. I have friends who never want kids. I could say I don’t understand their choice and they don’t understand my desire to have children. But neither of us force our opinions down each others throats. We respect them. No one has the right to tell another person their life would be destroyed if they had a baby. Same goes in the reverse, don’t you think? I would like to think that if the twenty year old decided to have her baby that her life would be fulfilled and happy and she would have no regrets. But that’s my hope. My dream. And the reality is I can’t regulate for that. I can’t be there to hold her hand and make sure it all works out.

I wish we could all live in a world where, as you say, “life in the womb is cherished and protected”. But you have to ask yourself, who was looking out for those foetus and babies that were found in a sewage chamber in Tuam? Over eight hundred skeletal remains. Eight hundred babies that some nun did away with. Those nuns didn’t give those women a chance. They didn’t take care of them or protect them. I know we’re living in a very different time but sometimes I wonder if we actually are. A man is presently in court for allegedly beating a woman to death for fear she would spill about their sexual encounter. A woman and three children died in a fire in a women’s refuge home. Nobody believed Catherine Corless that there were remains in Tuam. I think it’s naive and unfair of you to think that abortion should be a last desperate option for a woman. An option where there is no other hope. Why can’t you view it as a human right? Why does viewing the choice to have abortion as a freedom have to be a negative thing?

I also think it’s ludicrous when you say a woman with six children should be prioritised over her dying foetus. That is what is so scary about this country. If I got pregnant tomorrow and there were complications I couldn’t guarantee that the doctors would save me over a foetus that probably couldn’t survive without me anyway. It.Makes.No.Sense. As a woman how do you not see the absurdity of this situation? Yes, the mother of six should be saved. But so should any mother. Any woman. Again these laws were made by men. Men who have never given birth. Men whose lives are never in danger due to child birth. Men who this will NEVER affect. How are we still letting these men make decisions that affect our lives?

“It is grossly irresponsible to push your own beliefs and agenda, whatever they may be, on anyone who finds themselves in a crisis pregnancy situation. It is a decision only they can make, as the only ones who have to live with it. It is not you and your political ideology that could be left with a lifetime of psychological damage”.

Could this not be said for both sides of this debate? Offering complete and comprehensive choice is the best option. In my opinion, it comes down to education, which you mention. Education in the family home, at school, with your doctor. That is where it begins. There’s no reason that we can’t have legal abortion here in Ireland and educate men and women as to their choices. All options should be presented in an informed, unbiased manner. No one option should be favoured over another. I know several women who have had abortions and every one of them made a reasonable and informed decision. You have to trust that women know their own minds. We have to put safe guards in place that no one would be forced into having an abortion. That all options are presented fairly. I laugh to myself writing that, when I think of the number of cases where a women has sought a termination and the government has sought an injunction stopping them. It infuriates me that people can be so blind. Demanding one thing but unwilling to give it in the reverse.

I could go on and on arguing for one reason or another and so could you. As I mentioned above abortion is not a black and white issue. So I ask you, Larissa, and those on the other side of this debate, to take your own advice. Come to a march or a meeting and talk, discuss, listen and together we’ll find a solution.

Now

In 2003, I was in my third year in college in the Dublin Institute of Technology, studying Communications: Film and Broadcasting. One of our modules was Documentary. Myself and three of my friends decided to do our documentary on what “Now” meant for two women living in Dublin. One of whom was my grandmother, Maura (Ja) Cooney.

Last year, when Ja died, I dug out the VHS copy I had, thankfully, kept of our doc and had it converted to a .mov file. As you can see it is pretty rough quality and the length of the documentary  doesn’t allow for too many insights. But I’m so happy to have it. It’s a wonderful snapshot of a certain time in Ja’s life and I have lovelies memories of making it with my friends.

International Women’s Day

March 8th 2017.

Happy International Women’s Day!

What can I say?

When we hear about foetal and infant remains in a sewage chamber in Tuam that was connected to a Mother and Babies home in the 1950’s. That a young woman, Grace, with intellectual disabilities could be left in an abusive foster home for 20 years. That women still do not have autonomy over their bodies. That female ministers believe removing a 14 year penalty on women who procure an abortion would give a license to abusive men. That men are paid more than their female counterparts.

And this is just in Ireland.

That a woman can be kidnapped and repeatedly raped and beaten for two months. That women are cut and mutilated as part of their country’s traditions. That women are married at a young age without their consent. That women are sold into sex slavery under the belief they’re bound for a better life.

You worry for women. You wonder have we regressed? You wonder how we can right so many wrongs. It can become quite over whelming.

Then I find a little faith when I think about the amazing women in my life. From my mother and sisters carving a path for themselves. My boss as she juggles a growing family with a hectic business. My girlfriends who surprise me every day with their strength and resilience. The hundreds of women I meet in my workplace, each with their own story to tell. Asked recently in an interview who I admired most in the world, all I could think of were women. Admittedly I was flooded with images of Kim Kardashian – panic clearly set in – but I saw my way to happily saying JK Rowling. An impressive woman in her own right. Not simply for her great books but how she continues to hold herself to a certain standard and can wipe out ignorance in a witty 140 characters.

So today, on International Women’s Day, let us remember the amazing women in our lives and those who have gone before us. Let us stand together and fight for the injustices that continue to prevail. Let us love and acknowledge the men who strive for women’s rights as much as we do. But not forget that the scale is uneven. And it is days like today that remind us we need to continue that fight. For however long.

Let’s talk about STI screening?

I debated for a while as to whether I wanted to write about this subject. It’s quite a personal topic and while they’re becoming more common than we may like to admit, there’s still a large stigma attached to talking about Sexually Transmitted Infection’s, let alone admitting you have had one.

Step up, please!

Anyone?

But that’s why I felt I needed to write this post.

It’s not surprising most people don’t want to talk about STIs. It’s so personal and admitting you’ve ever had one can feel shameful. When it shouldn’t. But what’s concerning is the number of people who don’t get checked. Correct me if I’m wrong, but my experience is that women seem to be more conscientious than men when it comes to sexual health. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking this.

”Another problem, being straight, is the fact that a lot of the time men don’t seem to be as “woke” as women. I’ve always had to take responsibility for contraception – actively telling partners to use condoms, to go to STI clinics before we have sex, to come with me to get the morning-after pill.Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff – The Observer.

What’s interesting about the comment above, is the line referring to going to STI clinics before having sex. While we may berate some people in that they need to be told to go, the difference between Ireland and the UK, is that once you decide to, you have lots of options.

So, what are your options if you are a conscientious sexually active adult in Ireland? A lot of doctors and medical centres advertise sexual health screenings, but they come with a cost. A hefty one at that. Between €95 – €120. (€85 if you and your partner get tested together). Of course, to start off with, the line goes, if you use condoms and refrain from multiple sexual partners then you will avoid contracting an STI. I always wondered what was considered multiple. More than two a year? Five a year? Ten? Anyway, in reality, there are certain STIs that condoms simply don’t prevent you from catching. So as much as you should always practise safe sex, you aren’t hundred percent covered at all times.

Therefore, if you’re not in a relationship, abstention is clearly the best solution!

Joke.

Let’s not fear monger here. When I was growing up STIs were known as Sexually Transmitted Diseases. The down grade to an infection is promising, so we shouldn’t look on this as doomsday. They are easily dealt with. It’s just unfortunate that it’s such a prohibitively expensive process to get checked here in Ireland.

In my twenties, I didn’t have that kind of money to be throwing around, so myself and my girlfriends would suffer the indignity of hanging out in St. James’ hospital Guide clinic for a whole day. It was always a disaster. Hundreds of people queuing. Male doctors when you specifically requested a female one. Still it was a good service and one we made regular use of. The amount of men I knew back then who didn’t. Their lack of concern for their own sexual health was shocking. Actually the biggest fear seem to be about getting you pregnant, which of course was a concern considering our archaic laws.

I recently decided I wanted to go for a screening. No symptoms, just a healthy check up. As I wasn’t willing to fork out €95, it was off to James’ with me. (There are a few other free clinics but they’re either aimed at men or have really awkward times). Their open clinic is now reduced to a ticketed service, which they give out at 8am on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. The clinic itself doesn’t start till 9am on Mondays and then 1.30 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Admittedly I was late – finding parking and the clinic itself was no mean feat. Got there at 8.15 but I thought I might be okay. It’s Monday, it’s cold, it’s raining, there might not be a crowd. Oh how wrong was I. Firstly, I was told, it was emergencies only. What? Your website said it was an open clinic. Yes, but we only know on the day whether it’ll be emergency or not. Then I was told, you would have needed to be here at 7am to get a ticket anyway. How many people do you see? Some days it’s 50. Others it’s 20.

This is what we face here.

So to avail of what should be an all round free service, I’m expected to get up at 6am, be there for 7, although they don’t start for another two hours. Run the risk that they may decide it’s emergencies only. If they don’t, then hope I get a ticket and wait to be seen, which from previous experiences could take hours. Clearly this particular service is aimed students and the unemployed, which is fine. Great in fact, but I would think there are more that 60 people a week that would require it.

What I don’t understand is why better free services aren’t offered?

Why do we have to pay at all?

I can hear you laughing.

It’s a hoot, right?

Our health system is such a shambles there’s no way they could get themselves together to offer free sexual health screenings. But really they should. I know STI screening is not the most essential of all services, especially when you read about the hell nurses face on a daily basis, but it is important. While they may no longer be diseases, and can be treated, too many people neglect it, are afraid to talk about it and don’t get tested. And the reality is, if you don’t have symptoms (although several of them don’t present symptoms), why would you?

Why go when you can just ignore it?

It seems to be how our health care system ‘functions’ anyway.

Photo credit to Anna Sastre – unsplash.com

 

 

 

Turning a Blind Eye

I’ve yet to see Manchester by the Sea. From the trailer and the few things I’ve heard it looks good, if a little depressing. Hence perfect for cleaning up at the awards ceremonies. But I was a tad disturbed reading reports about Casey Affleck. Claims that Affleck sexually harassed two female colleagues during the filming of the mockumentary I’m Still Here back in 2010 have re-emerged due to his strong contention for a Golden Globe (which he won) and possible Oscar nomination. The case was settled out of court. The two women were paid (off) and the complaints were dropped i.e. went away. Same difference.

End of story.

Right?

I find it hard to know how to feel in these situations. We’re still talking about Woody Allen and other Hollywood names that were accused of greater offences in the past but never charged. It’s like it’s an open secret and yet no one says or does anything. Have a read of Ronan Farrow’s (Mia Farrow’s son) article on Hollywood’s attitude to the Allen accusations. With regards to Affleck, I often think, rightly or wrongly, if something is settled out of court, there is guilt involved. Is it that the accused doesn’t want to go through the messiness of a battle so they try and resolve it out of the public glare? It could be argued on the other hand, even if innocent and later acquitted of any charges, the accused is already tarred with that brush. The mud has been slung and people can’t always see past the innocent verdict.

Take Nate Parker for example. He was accused of rape in 1999 but acquitted of all charges. Yet his film, Birth of a Nation, has apparently sunk without trace. Was it because it was a more severe charge? Or that his accuser took her own life several years later? Or had it to do with the colour of his skin? Or his place in Hollywood? His lack of big guns to protect his image. I don’t want to rehash other people’s arguments but you have to wonder. Why has this guy, who was found innocent in a court of law, been rejected by Hollywood? Reading around this 1999 accusation you do wonder if he should have taken more responsibility for his actions. Perhaps that’s why the film community are not as quick to receive him. And yet, why do we turn a blind eye to others? Roman Polanski has long been a controversial figure in Hollywood. Although he never admitted guilt to rape, he did plead guilty to having unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13 year old girl, but fled the United States before he could be imprisoned. Personally I don’t think a 13 year old girl could consent to some of the things he’s accused of doing. And still he’s revered by many in Hollywood simply for the class of film he makes. Or what about Bill Cosby? As Melissa Silverstein writes in The Guardian “It took over 50 women to come forward for the world to believe that Bill Cosby might have been sexually assaulting women for decades”.

What frustrates me is there is no clear path in how to treat any of these cases. As I’ve spoken before it’s horrible to think of someone being wrongly accused of something. It’s also horrible for someone guilty to walk free. Such is the difficulty of finding justice some times. But what about the people who use money to make their problems go away. Affleck may not have raped these woman but should such “boorish behaviour” be forgotten so quickly? Or are people entitled to make mistakes, clear it up in private and move on with their careers?  And what happens to the women whose voices have been silenced? I don’t know if Affleck has been wrongly accused. He claims he’s innocent. Perhaps he is. Or perhaps these two women were telling the truth. Maybe he got ahead of himself, big man on campus so to speak and did some extremely stupid things i.e. climbing in to bed with one of the women. And was drunk to boot. I’m not excusing any of that. But it’s not rape or child abuse. (Though I do find it weird that someone would pay out for something they claim they didn’t do.)

What it is, is a continued mistreatment of women by men in superior roles.

Take the recent surfacing of Bernardo Bertolucci interview where he admitted to conspiring with Marlon Brando over a rape scene without actress Maria Schneider’s knowledge. That is not acceptable. In this case it is outrageous and only serves to reinforce this image of Hollywood’s male elite being purveyor’s of this sexist attitude. Admittedly there has been outrage to the interview but apparently Schneider had been saying it for years and no one listened to her. As I’ve said before, doesn’t La La land have a responsibility for how it’s members treat each other? Shouldn’t it be working to change the way we view the sexual assault and rape culture in films, and between those with power and those without? It’s an institution, decades old, that has both protected and expelled it’s congregation over the years. It has the power to make or break you as Nate Parker is currently experiencing. But there needs to be a consistent approach to situations like this. Hollywood columnist and blogger, Jeffrey Wells believes “there should be a separation of church (cinema) and state (film-makers’ private lives)” But can that ever be? Shouldn’t there simply be an open understanding that behaviour like this is unacceptable and can’t simply be washed away by money, power, experience and the buzz of Oscars, no matter what your surname is.

Christmas time, beauty time, me time!

The great thing about Christmas is all the goodies you get. Okay, there’s family time thrown in there too but let’s face it, we like the holidays so we can chill out and take some me time. Well, Santa was very good to me this year and brought some nice beauty treats my way. And it also made me think it was time to check in about my Liz Earle experience so far.

The main thing I was looking forward to from Santa was a voucher to try the Express Brightening Enzyme Facial from Oslo Beauty. Apparently this is little firecracker of a facial, only 25 mins long, is exactly what you need if you don’t have time and money for more expensive treatments. Because I don’t get facials regularly or really often enough, I’m hesitant to spend a lot of money until I know I like the products they use and the people who are doing the treatment. I’ve heard this facial will cover all your facial needs whilst also keeping within budget – €50. Not bad. I’ll report back.

I also got a Sanctuary salt scrub. This brand knows how to do scrubs. Pretty delicate on the skin, not too harsh on the pocket and it still feels like something luxurious. And you’ve such soft, silky smooth skin afterwards. Also what I love about it is how you use it. You don’t need to be bone dry to begin with, which can often be quite irritating. Simply because sometimes I forget and get wet before I remember I wanted to exfoliate. So you drench your skin and then massage it in. Or, if you’ve time, you can massage it in to dry skin then soak in a lovely warm bath! Perfect for the gal on the go or a winter treat! Can’t wait!

I’ve been on my new Liz Earle regime for over two months and I have to admit it took me a while to settle in to it. I love the process of the gentle cleanser with the warm muslin cloth to help exfoliate the skin. This has really rejuvenated my skin but I was shocked at how much I broke out. And it wasn’t like a week long break out. My skin had spots for a good while. Long enough to make me consider returning to my old products. It’s cleared now (I should add that I’ve been under a lot of stress recently, which could have added to the breakout) but for someone who’s always had quite good skin it was hard to digest. I want to believe it had nothing to do with my new regime. I do think the amount of water I was drinking or not drinking was having an impact. It really is key to the health of your skin. And in fairness, it was a complete overhaul of my regime so spots were inevitable but I do still get them, which at my age seems a little unusual. I have invested again in the brand and bought a new set of the same products but I’ll be keeping a beady eye on my skin.

No Trumpets Here

Although it was America’s election, it’s fair to say large parts of the world awoke with a pounding headache last Wednesday morning. By the end of the day, I was so emotionally battered I didn’t know which way to turn. All around me was the doom and gloom of what this win meant. Brexit all over again. Brexit tenfold more like it. How would it effect Ireland seemed to be our biggest concern. I found that hard to digest. Not that it wouldn’t impact us, but the man had just been elected. Hillary had barely surfaced from the nightmare of the past 18 months. Her supporters and those caught in the middle had not yet digested the results, let alone its impact. And here was little old Ireland wondering how it would effect us.

The overwhelming feeling was that this was a big loss for progress. Not for democracy. The man stood for election. He campaigned hard. He spoke to the people. He got through the noise and they came out and voted. Okay, Hillary did win the popular vote but only marginally. Throughout the day all I heard from Trump supporters was how he would bring back jobs, tighten our borders and save the unborn. Like he was some demigod who could resurrect an America of by-gone years.

Bring back jobs. Hell yes, please do. No one wants to see a community destroyed by a recession. Factories closing, unemployment rising. Local trade disintegrating, flattened by big business. It’s hard for me not to point out the obvious. That Trump is big business. How and ever! This man does not have a magic wand. He can’t kick-start an economy that no longer benefits from dying trades like mining. As sad as that is.

Tighten our borders. I understand the frustration and sense of loss that has been experienced with growing immigration. The world is changing and at such a pace that it’s hard to know where to stand. But we must stand together. We must not put up walls – literally and metaphorically – that knock down the most vulnerable in our society. It frustrates me to see countries like America and Britain spout this racial and anti-immigrant rhetoric. The hypocrisy of their positions. Okay, unlike Britain, America never colonised another country. But it’s not as though they keep to themselves. With American tentacles feeling their way in to many different countries, all the while, promoting their own homestead as a land of dreams, are we surprised that people are vying in their masses to go there? By hook or by crook.

And for many years that didn’t seem to be a problem. But now it’s like the benefactor is questioning your worth. How do you benefit me? Only if you’re not going to be a drain on our resources. What happened to this superpower that protects the weak? Instead, like Britain, they want to turn their backs on you in your time of need and not offer this land of so called opportunity to everyone. Okay, I know that’s not feasible. I understand that restrictions need to be in place but at the heart of this is a deep racial sentiment, that if we don’t name, and name loudly, we’ll find ourselves back in a time when it was okay to make Jewish people wear stars and file them off to camps. History repeats itself. Let us not forget.

As for this anti-abortion rhetoric, I can’t even begin to comment. I still live in a country where our (predominantly male) politicians refuse to deal with the crisis at hand. Passing it off to some citizen’s assembly, as though it really is the solution to all our problems. And not just a way to avoid facing the truth. But in a country where abortion rights were hard fought and has been legal since 1973, it’s depressing to see that this is still an issue. What’s worse is the thought that people think they can reverse these rulings along with marriage equality. I just don’t understand it. You don’t believe in abortion or marriage equality? Fine. That’s not the point. It’s about the right to choose. It’s about education. People who voted for Trump feel they were educated enough to make that decision. They feel they knew the truth about this man. That’s their choice. As much as it stinks that this hypocritical, hatred citing buffoon can actually be the only person who reached a nation of disillusioned, lost, angry, tired people, well, hell, that’s democracy! And some thing we have to live with for the next four years.

As for Ireland, well, despite our failings – homelessness and rising costs of rent, crises in our health system, over worked and under payed Nurses and Gardai and many, many other issues – we’re not stupid. We know what’s important to our country. A small island in the large Atlantic Ocean. And that’s foreign business. We need you. That much is clear from Taoiseach Enda Kenny being the third person to speak with the President Elect.

All hail …

No, no. I just can’t.